Starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, it became a tradition to take the measure of a new president by sizing up his first 100 days in office.
Today, perhaps reflecting our obsession with speed, the candidates for president are proposing a new timetable: one day. To hear the 2016 contenders talk about their plans for their first day in office, you have to wonder what’ll be left for Day Two.
Donald Trump, for example, says he would seal the borders to keep out illegal immigrants the minute he takes office. Trump also promises to declare China a currency manipulator.
Ted Cruz would also break some glass on Day One. First, he says, he would “rescind every illegal and unconstitutional action taken by Barack Obama.” Next, he would instruct the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood for violations of laws barring the sale of body parts.
After lunch, Cruz would direct the Internal Revenue Service to put an end to the persecution of religious liberty, followed by canceling the Iran nuclear deal. Finally, Cruz would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
On his first day, Marco Rubio also plans to rip up the Iran nuclear agreement, followed by reimposing sanctions.
Jeb Bush, on the other hand, wouldn’t tear up the nuclear deal on Day One. Instead, he would be busy withdrawing Obama’s executive orders, seeking to repeal Obamacare and otherwise trying to lift regulatory burdens off business’s back.
Carly Fiorina says she would make two phone calls: one to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assure him of continued U.S. support and the second to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, to demand the right to make unannounced and unfettered inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites.
The 2016 Democrats’ first-day plans are less ambitious, as far as we know. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, would merely sign an order that “moves us as a nation” to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050, such as by extending tax credits for wind and solar power.
What would Hillary Clinton do on her Day One? She isn’t saying.
But in real life, most presidents’ first full days are relatively ho-hum.
President George W. Bush had coffee with his parents and took supporters on a tour of his new digs.
That may not have been the whole story, though. Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, told his memoirist in 2004 that Bush had planned “on day one” to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. So maybe presidents really do plan to start wars on their first day.